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August 8, 2017

Things To Consider Before Getting Married


I once heard it said:

“Women want one man to fill all their needs and wants and men want all women to fill their one need and want.”

It seems to me that women expect men to look like Tom Selleck, have money like Donald Trump (at least before his divorces) and to communicate like Alan Alda. Most men, it is often reported, look like Dom Deluise, spend their money like Jack Benny and communicate like Archie Bunker.

Men want women to look like Victoria Principal, communicate like Sally Jesse Raphael and have passion like Tina Turner (at least that’s my fantasy).

After counseling hundreds of couples I am totally convinced that the expectations that young people bring into marriage are often rather unrealistic. If you were to interview any young betrothed couple, you’d quite likely find that they each hold several idealistic and rather unrealistic expectations.

For example:

Their looks and their passion will last forever.

If they ever get angry at each other, every argument will be resolved quickly and efficiently with a fifty-fifty compromise.

Finances will never be a problem.

Issues concerning children will never be a problem.

In-laws will never cause a problem.

And on and on.

Moreover, while this may sound surprising, it has been my experience that most couples during their courting phase never even discuss such issues as money, children, and in-laws.

Most couples, it seems to me, deal with these topics only when they are actually wrestling with them. It is far easier to process these issues during the courting phase, when there are stars in each other’s eyes, then when the intense heat of the issue interferes with the negotiations.

With sex before values, relationships tend to be formed that may well have basic problems in them.

Every couple prior to marrying should have long serious discussions regarding many important issues, including the following:

  • What are each of your long and short-term goals?
  • What do each of you hope to do for a living?
  • Where do you hope to reside?
  • Who will earn the money?
  • Who will manage the money and how will it be spent?
  • What are your financial goals?
  • What if you disagree on how the money is spent?
  • How many children do you want to have?
  • What are your values and views regarding child rearing and discipline?
  • What roles should the in-laws play in the marriage?
  • Who initiates sex?
  • What if you don’t feel like it?

I have been quoted as saying this many times:

“The issues couples argue over when they are courting are very often the same issues they will argue about when they are in their retirement center.”—if they make it that long.

Obviously, I believe people can change their behavior. However, behaviors founded on certain basic values—like racial and/or religious prejudices—do not change readily. If the basis values each partner holds early in a relationship are in conflict, that relationship is likely destined for long-term strife.

Some of the basic issues that should be closely examined before one walks down the aisle are:

  • You partner’s basic attitude toward the opposite sex.
  • Your partner’s willingness to share or give up control in the relationship.
  • Your partner’s attitude toward marriage and the sanctity of that relationship.
  • Your partner’s religious views.
  • Your partner’s views about having and raising children.
  • Your partner’s views about money.
  • Is your partner predisposed to violence and/or the excessive consumption of alcohol or other drugs?

And, importantly, what kind of basic messages concerning marriage, loyalty, respect, and parenthood has your partner received from his or her family?

Recently I was working with a distressed couple. One, of many, of this couple’s basic problems was that they frequently argued over whether the wife would work out of the house.

She was feeling unfulfilled running the house and raising their child and wanted to pursue a career, in addition to the household duties.

The husband felt that his wife should remain home with their child and continue to be a full-time homemaker. When I asked them if they had ever discussed this issue before they decided to marry, they said they had. In fact, they did discuss this issue previously but Alecia, the wife, tacitly agreed previously to stay at home but really always wanted a career.

I asked Alecia why she agreed to remain a homemaker when she truly wanted to pursue a career outside the home. She answered, “I thought things would change in time.”

An important part of my standard intake when working with couples is to ask the question to the partner complaining the loudest:

“When did you first sense that there may be a problem with this (these) issue(s)?”

Invariably, the response I receive is, “When we were dating.”

I then usually ask, “If you saw a problem then, why did you get married?”

The answer usually is, “I thought he/she would change.”

I hear this all the time. Having counseled hundreds of couples over the years I have a news flash for every person who believes they will be able to change an unpleasant basic value in their prospective partner:


If you sense any incompatibility in basic issues during the courting phase, you had better address the issues before saying, “I do.”

I recommend that couples have long, serious discussions regarding such concerns or possibly see a therapist for some pre-marital counseling. (In my three decades-plus in this business, I have only seen three couples for pre-marital work. Unfortunately, we do little in the way of prevention in this field.) Nevertheless, if the basic conflict in values remains, you probably should consider breaking off the relationship and dealing with the emotional pain of separation now instead of being emotionally distressed throughout your marriage.

The reasons why we marry are not the reasons we stay married.

What attracts us to our mates?

Physical appearance?



Financial potential?

If a marriage is based largely on physical attractiveness, what will happen after a few years after a few pounds are added, some hair is lost, wrinkles are formed and gravity takes its inexorable effect?

Anyone who has been married more than a few years will tell you that sex with your mate is nice, even fulfilling, but it may lack some of the excitement and some of the passion that was present early in the marriage.

(I once made the mistake of asking my wife, Nan, if after nearly twenty-five years of marriage had she ever fantasized about someone else while we were making love. She turned to me with a little grin on her face and said, “You never give me enough time!”)

In my office I have heard many couples describe numerous things that first attracted them to their mate.

My favorites are:

“She was a great dancer.”

“He was a sharp dresser!”

“He had a neat car.”

Whatever it takes to get a couple to begin seeing each other is fine with me. But it clearly takes more than dancing, dressing or a sports car to make a relationship last. Shared values had better be in place before the wedding or the relationship will likely have serious trouble.

In olden days in many cultures and even currently in some cultures, marriages were arranged by parents. Most young people today think that concept is ridiculous. When I was younger, I would have agreed with them. However, after seeing hundreds of mismatched couples over three decades of marital counseling I am now not so sure the old ways were so wrong.

When parents arrange a marriage for their child they certainly, in most cases, would look after their child’s best interests. Without a doubt, the partner chosen would come from a known family, with similar values. The choice would be made calmly and deliberately. Therefore, the odds of the betrothed couple having a successful relationship would increase.

Not too surprisingly, many marriages formed through parental arrangement worked well and “love” often subsequently developed. Ensuring that similar personal cultural values exist before forming a relationship, makes much more sense than establishing a long-term relationship based on a chance meeting and physical attraction or lust.

This article is an excerpt from Dr. Larry Waldman’s book: How Come I Love Him but Can’t Live with Him? Making Your Marriage Better and has been published with the permission of the author and the publisher.

About the author

Dr. Larry Waldman

Dr. Waldman is a licensed clinical, forensic psychologist and certified school psychologist in Phoenix, Arizona.  He has conducted a highly successful private practice for the past 35 years working with children, teens, parents, couples, and adults in a solution-focused manner. He consults with personal injury, domestic relations, estate planning, and immigration attorneys.

In addition to his clinical work, Waldman was the past president of the Maricopa Psychological Society and the Director of Psychological Services for Charter Psychiatric Hospital of Glendale from 1988 to 2000. He has been a Medical Consultant for the Social Security Office in Phoenix for 22 years, an adjunct graduate professor in the Educational Psychology Department for Northern Arizona University (NAU) for 15 years, and has served on the professional board of directors of notMYkid, a charitable organization, for five years.

In addition to numerous articles which have been published in the local Phoenix media and in the national press, Dr. Waldman has written three self-help books:  Who’s Raising Whom?  A Parent’s Guide to Effective Child Discipline which has sold 25,000 copies, Coping with Your Adolescent, and How Come I Love Him but Can’t Live with Him? Making Your Marriage Better.  In 2010 he published The Graduate Course You Never Had:  How to Develop, Manage and Market a Flourishing Mental Health Practice—With and Without Managed Care.  Too Busy Earning a Living to Make Your Fortune? Discover the Psychology of Achieving Your Life Goals was published in 2013.

Dr. Waldman trained as a public speaker.  His seminars are organized, practical and entertaining—offering “edutainment”.  For the past 25 years he has have spoken across the country to educators, laypersons, corporations, attorneys, and fellow mental health professionals.  He has have done numerous media presentations on local and national radio and TV programs, including a spot on the Phil Donahue Show in 2003. He has presented at several state and national conventions.

Dr Waldman can be reached at:  LarryWaldmanPhD [@]; 602-996-8619 (office); 602-418-8161 (cell); or Paradise Valley Suites, 11020 N. Tatum Blvd., Building E, Suite 100, Phoenix, AZ  85028.  His website is